Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Hate The War

Yeah, I saw the story. We're not linking. It's nonsense. It does explain a lot, though, doesn't it. Like how the 'movement' in Canada still struggles?

It's a bunch of nonsense. The 'journalist' doesn't even grasp that war resisters who went to Canada during Vietnam included deserters and, no, not all of them were drafted into service.

Whatever was supposed to have been accomplished with the article, nothing was. But in terms of the movement (or 'movement'), until everyone stops repeating this nonsense that Canada took in draft dodgers but not deserters, any real movement building suffers.

The stupidity at this point is the biggest obstacle to building a war resistance movement in Canada. Note the following:

Jeff Enger, a deserter from the Army and therefore excluded from the Presidential pardon, will be sworn in as a Canadian citizen next Friday, one of the many self-exiled American war resisters who "want to make our lives here." However, like other deserters, Mr. Egner would like to be able to travel freely in the country of his birth.
The Presidential pardon covered nearly all draft evaders of the Vietnam War period. Mr. Carter postponed a decision on the men who entered but then deserted the armed forces.
Jack Colhoun, a leader in the Toronto exile community, is one of those deseters who insist that they would fight in a "just war," or "if the United States were attacked," as Mr. Colhoun put it.
The men interviewed, who rerpesent a cross section of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 American war resisters living in Canada, have in common a yearning for recognition by Americans at home that their actions were an acceptable exercise of principle "in the American tradition," as one said.
"We don't expect to be congratulated or anything," said Mr. Egner, a law student at the University of Toronto, "but we believe we acted correctly."
They also share a deep conviction that the deserters, as well as the draft evaders, should be pardoned.

Robert Trumbull, "Pardon Brings Cautious Response From Some War Exiles in Canada," New York Times, January 23, 1977. Let's just stay with the Times because I pulled all their articles from that period out of the journals and put them in a folder.

For Sidney and Ruth Schwarzmann of Nassau County, the war in Vietnam did not end when the last troops came home. Or when former President Gerald R. Ford declared his clemency program. Or when President Carter, on his first full day in office, signed a pardon for some Vietnam war resisters.
The Schwarzmann's 31-year-old son, Victor, has been living in Canada since 1968, in what amounts to enforced exile, since he faces desertion charges if he returns to the United States. He left the Army after passing his physical, applying for conscientious objector status and being turned down.

That's Paul Wilner's "After Vietnam, a War of Emotions," New York Times, April 3, 1977. In August 1976 when then candidate Jimmy Carter spoke to the American Legion in Seattle, what did he say? "I do not favor a blanket amnesty but for those who violated Selective Service laws, I intend to grant a blanket pardon." He's speaking of the draft. That's all he offered. If you doubt it, go to a real library and pull the rolls of film to look up January 22, 1977 when the Times ran "Evaders In Canada Call Action A Sham: Exclusion of Deserters Is a Source of Bitterness to Exiles Who Say Pardon Will Affect Only 2,000." The author is again Robert Trumbull. Second paragraph in the article:

Jack Colhoun, co-editor of a magazine for the self-exiled Americans in Canada who is a deserter from the Army, branded Mr. Carter's plan "a real sham, sinsiter, almost Nixonesque."
[. . .]
There is no official figure, since the Canadian Government omits reference to military status in its immigration procedures, but Mr. Colhoun's group estimates that the number is from 20,000 to 25,000 of whom 6,000 to 7,500 are believed to hae become Canadian citizens.
After counting out the deserters and those who have taken Canadian citizenship, only about 2,000 of the exiles in Canada, or one of every 10 or 17, will benefit by Mr. Carter's pardon, Mr. Colhoun declared.

Carter's decision was called out for leaving out deserters before Carter took office. In December 28, 1976, Tom Wicker was doing just that from the op-ed pages of the New York Times in "Clemency, It's Not So Simple."

We could go on and on all night. Carter did not pardon deserters. He set out the framework he was using on the campaign trail in 1976. He refused to alter it. Gerald Ford did offer a clemency program for deserters and draft dodgers. You had to jump through hoops and most war resisters found it to be a joke, but he offered it. Carter focused on draft dodgers, not deserters. For those who like to play what-if, if Carter hadn't talked up his 'big plan,' Ford might have issued a pardon. He was considering it. It was reported. But Carter had been elected and was coming in with his 'big plan.' As Elizabeth Holtzman told PBS on the first day of Carter's administration, she hoped he would revist his decision. He didn't. There was that hope. A lot of people were hoping. But he didn't revisit it.

Until the war resistance movement (in Canada and in the US) starts telling the truth about what happened, it's going to be a long muddle. You can find muddles and lies all over the internet, click here for one example, but that doesn't change reality. Canada's not being asked to do anything that they didn't do before. That's the talking point. Until that's established, the counter-argument will always be "There's no draft today!" There's no need for that back-and-forth. It's counter-productive and it wastes time. Canada welcomed draft dodgers and deserters during Vietnam. Today it's being asked to recognize deserters the same way it did during Vietnam. It's not being asked to do anything different or new.

It's that basic.

But even the CBC can't get it right today. Despite reporting on it real time. Here they are playing stupid in 2006: "Tens of thousands of Americans moved to Canada during the war, many of them settling in B.C. As many as half returned to the U.S. after president Jimmy Carter declared an amnesty in 1977." The amnesty was only for draft dodgers and the CBC has no idea how many moved back because there was no official figure kept by the Canadian government on them (dodgers or deserters).

Thing is, while the left wallows in stupidty, the right-wing does know what happened. They know because they condemned Ford and Carter in real time. They know because they've kept their hatred alive over the issue while the left has failed (repeatedly) to pass it down.

We called out the CBC, let's call out the US. Here's Democracy Now! serving up misinformation in 2006:

AMY GOODMAN: How does amnesty--didn't Carter give amnesty for resisters?
TOD ENSIGN: Well, not exactly amnesty. He set up a program--he gave amnesty to the draft refusers who were more--tend to be more white and middle class. The soldiers, he gave what was called "clemency," and you had to actually go to a military base and apply for it, and then you were given what was called a "clemency discharge," which in some ways was a stigma also, because it told the employer that you were a Vietnam refuser. At any rate, only about 8,000 people actually applied for that program, so it was not a very large program. Remember, there was half a million desertion cases from the Vietnam War, so that was a very large number.

Tod Ensign likes to help. It's a shame when he doesn't know what he's talking about. The clemency program he's referring to was Ford's. Since he's being called out by name, let's note his jumping all over Dalia Hashad on Law and Disorder (scroll down, it's the the June 11, 2007 broadcast) when she pointed out Camilo Mejia's stop-loss was not only uncalled for, Dalia was right. That's because Dalia actually read the damn book. Dalia was not wrong. She actually read the book. She stated Camilo was stop-lossed through 2031. Dalia was jumped on for that comment. Camilo Mejia's book is Road From Ar Ramadi (highly recommended). It should be page 309 (that's from memory, it's in the Afterword by Chris Hedges regardless, but check page 309 first), this appears: "His commitment to the army was extend until the year 2031." If that's wrong, Chris Hedges is wrong, The New Press is wrong. But one thing is not wrong, Dalia Hashad's comments. Again, she read the book. We've noted that before without naming the individual, Mike's noted it, but if we're going to talk about reality and the ones who get it wrong, let's take a moment to defend Dalia who read the book and attempted to discuss it only to be loudly shut down. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't nice. She did not deserve it -- nor was she wrong.

Tod Ensign was wrong. Tod Ensign was wrong when he spoke to Amy Goodman.

Did Carter give amnesty? Tod said, "Well, not exactly amnesty." Carter used "pardon." And specifically stated he didn't approve of "blanket amnesty." An amnesty, Carter stated, "says what you did was right." Which is why he called it a pardon. It applied only to draft dodgers. Tod: "He set up a program--he gave amnesty to the draft refusers who were more--tend to be more white and middle class." Leaving out the word "amnesty" (which Carter rejected), Tod is correct on that. Tod: "The soldiers, he gave what was called 'clemency,' and you had to actually go to a military base and apply for it, and then you were given what was called a 'clemency discharge,' which in some ways was a stigma also, because it told the employer that you were a Vietnam refuser." No. A pardon, a presidential pardon, wipes away 'crimes.' That's what Carter did. The Clemency Program was Ford's. Tod is confusing the two programs. Ford set up The Clemency Review Board, headed by former US Senator Charles E. Goodell. Those wanting to take part in that program had to start by turning themselves into DoD (unless they were in prison already). Carter did not include deserters. Ron Kovic called that out in 1977 stating, "I didn't feel Carter's pardon went far enough. The only way our nightmare and trauma of the Vietnam war and truly heal ourselves as a nation is by granting a total and unconditional amnesty for all resisters of the Vietnam war. I'm definitely going to oppose any war started by any Administration from the point out. I'm definitely going to encourage deserters, and if I go to jail, I'm ready to speak out from jail, if necessary" (New York Times, front page to page ten, April 3, 1977). Tod: "At any rate, only about 8,000 people actually applied for that program, so it was not a very large program. Remember, there was half a million desertion cases from the Vietnam War, so that was a very large number." 500,000 desertion cases? I'd be interested in seeing the footnote on that. He may be lumping in "bad discharges" (the figure most often used for that was 750,000) or he may be lumping in draft dodgers with deserters (by 1971, the figure for the two categories combined was said to be between 70,000 and 100,000). Ignoring his numbers, he's speaking of Ford's program.

Not trying to be sarcastic, does Gerald Ford not have biographers? Do none of them hit the roof as his credit (he's the only president that did a damn thing for Vietnam deserters) is stolen and assigned to Carter? I think Ford's program was a joke. But in terms of what Carter did? Ford's credit's being stolen. And Carter's being cited as a wonderful, amazing person when that's not how his program was seen in real time. The arguments against Carter's pardon (by supporters of amnesty) included that the reasons he gave for pardoning draft dodgers was that they actually applied to deserters. Deserters were more likely to be poor, to be less educated and to be a racial minority (Wicker: "a fourth were black or Hispanic, three-fourths were high school dropouts, and 57 percent were from low-income homes").

Prior to Carter's first day on the job assignment, Time magazine published "Pardon: How Broad A Blanket?" on January 17, 1977:

What Carter promised was a blanket pardon "for those who violated Selective Service laws." This presumably would include all those civilians who fled the country to avoid the draft, simply failed to register or refused to submit to induction. As for those who deserted after induction or enlistment, Carter said each case "should be handled on an individual basis in accordance with our nation's system of military justice." That seemed to imply that military officials, hardly lenient in such matters, would have to process all of these desertion cases and try to decide what was in each person's mind, some four or more years ago, that caused him to desert.
This general approach also seems to contradict Carter's frequently expressed concern for the underprivileged in society. As he has noted, the draft evaders are overwhelmingly white and middleclass. A report prepared for President Ford in 1975 placed 87% of them in this category. The deserters are largely poor and disproportionately black--more than 50% low-income and 20% black. In general, the more affluent, better-educated war resisters found the means to avoid service by evading the draft; the underprivileged submitted, turning against the war later, if at all, by deserting.

According to the Univeristy of Texas' online statements, the bulk of the Ford papers on this are open to the public. Charles E. Gooddell headed the clemency committee and, again the bulk of those papers are available to the public ["Open. Some items are temporaryl restricted under terms of the donor's deed of gift, a copy of which is available on request, or under National Archives and Records Administration general restrictions (36 CFR 1256).]. From their online guide to those papers:

Shortly after assuming office, President Ford created a clemency program to allow the young men who were "convicted, charged, investigated or still sought for violations of the Military Selective Service Act or of the Uniform Code of Military Justice" to contribute a "share to the rebuilding of peace among ourselves and with all nations." On September 16, 1974, Ford issued a proclamation and executive order establishing the Presidential Clemency Board (PCB) to oversee this program and announced the appointment of the nine members of the Board. The President selected his old friend and former congressional colleague Charles Goodell as chairman.

The PCB handled applications for clemency on a case‑by‑case basis. As the number of applications went from 850 in early 1975 to 21,500 by the deadline at the end of March, it became apparent that the original board of nine members and less than 100 staff members was inadequate to complete the task in the specified time. In May 1975 the President authorized nine additional board members and a dramatic increase in staff to keep the work on schedule. The PCB finished its work in September 1975 and turned over all incomplete cases to the Justice Department.

During the year of its existence, the PCB disposed of 14,514 cases. For each case, they determined whether or not the individual deserved clemency and, if so, whether he should be required to complete a period of alternative service. Alternative service involved working for a non‑profit organization in a job promoting the national health, safety, or interest. Of the civilian clemency applicants, more than four out of every five received outright pardons, only a few were denied clemency, and the remainder were assigned to alternative service before receiving their pardons. Only slightly more than one‑third of military applicants received outright pardons, 7 percent were denied clemency, and the remainder participated in the alternative service program.

While the PCB claimed to have succeeded in its assigned task, many people disputed this statement. Only about 19 percent of the eligible people even applied for the program. Many draft evaders and deserters attacked the program for not going far enough and demanded an unconditional amnesty. At the same time many people in the military and in veterans organizations were unhappy with any form of amnesty or clemency.

Now Carter's papers are a joke -- you will discover he decided to reinstate Selective Service registration in October of 1979 even though he would announce it in his January 1980 State of the Union speech. But you have the realtime coverage on PBS (the program that is now The NewsHour) and you can watch it online, you can read it online. And though the CBC is shaky on that era today, they do have archives. (We link to it on the permalinks to the left.) You can watch their "Amnesty -- but not for all" from January 21, 1977 online and here's their text summary of the report:

In his first act as president, Jimmy Carter pardons those who peacefully evaded the draft by travelling abroad or failing to register. Military deserters, however, have not been included in the blanket pardon. In the two-tiered system, deserters can apply for a limited pardon to be reviewed on a case by case basis. CBC Radio's Barbara Frum talks to one frustrated military deserter who would like to go home again.

Any Democrat who runs for public office gets targeted with the smear that they were pardoned. Bill Clinton was, John Kerry was. And the right-wing gets all excited, "Carter pardoned them!" And then those with knowledge pass on the reality. Kerry was discharged, there was no need for a pardon. Had he not been discharged, he would have been covered by Ford's program because he would have been a deserter. (Kerry was discharged, he wasn't a deserter.) Bill Clinton did not evade the draft. He registered. He wasn't called up. There was no reason for him to be in Carter's pardon. As Jane Fonda correctly says in Sir! No Sir!, the right keeps going back to it. The left needs to as well because too many damn lies have taken hold. When we don't even know which president did what, too many lies have taken hold. When we don't even know that Canada welcomed deserters during Vietnam, too many lies have taken hold. The right-wing never stops talking about Vietnam (including revisionary tactics) but what does the left do? Not a whole damn much if we can't even get the basic facts right. Fonda's right that we do need to keep going back because until we do enough to get it right, we're not learning anything, we're not passing on anything. And we are certainly not accomplishing anything.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh

-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Two Thursdays ago, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4113. Tonight? 4116. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,236,604 as the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the Iraq War up from 1,225,898. Like last week, it still reads 1,225,898 last week. Maybe that's where the White House is getting their 'violence is down' talking point?

The e-mail address for this site is